"I'd like to see a survey sent only to the first handlers, who PBH is proposing to have pay for this...It's easy for someone to say they are in favor of the idea when they won't be the one paying for it."
- Lorri Koster, Mann Packing Co. Inc.
In workshops at United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association conventions, grower-shippers raised concerns about whether it would benefit the industry. One concern is the trickle-down effect of the assessments on growers, even though they would be charged to first handlers. Another is whether increasing demand for fruits and vegetables would actually be beneficial for growers because changing supplies can happen very quickly.
The concerns voiced through the survey included an opposition to more assessments and a fear that not everybody would benefit equally.
âIâd like to see a survey sent only to the first handlers, who PBH is proposing to have pay for this, and see where the percentages come in,â said Lorri Koster, vice president of marketing for Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing Co. Inc. âTo me, that is the only statistic that matters at the end of the day. Itâs easy for someone to say they are in favor of the idea when they wonât be the one paying for it.â
Supporters of the plan have cited successes such as the âGot Milkâ campaign for milk, and said that the produce industry needs a similar campaign.
âOverall, the ROI is about ten-fold for the producer who pays into it,â Pivonka said.
In the survey, 42% said they already pay some form of marketing order assessment, but results didnât clarify if thatâs a sticking point to the plan.
Although more of the large companies had heard of the promotion board than smaller companies, itâs unclear if company size or recognized consumer brand influenced opinions.
âBetween the low survey response rate and the fact that so many who did respond had not heard about the promotion board concept prior to the survey, PBH outreach about the proposed promotion board will continue prior to a second survey being fielded,â said Paul Klutes, director of brand sales for C.H. Robinson and chairman of PBHâs board of trustees, in a news release.
Koster said the low awareness level supports her opinion that the industry is grappling with much more pragmatic issues and challenges.
Like other promotion and research boards, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would oversee this one if approved.
"Our intent is to go the course between now and the end of October. We want to get through PMA and talk to more people, just try to get more feedback through the event, and use that input in the PBH executive committee meetings."
- Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH
The foundationâs executive board plans to vote on the proposal this fall and, if the vote is in favor, start working on a proposal for the USDA. Because of the proposal process and a public comment period, if approved by the USDA, assessments wouldnât start until at least 2012.
âWeâll either stop or there will be a movement to put together a proposal that would go to USDA,â Pivonka said. âWe really just wanted to know what people thought of it before we put together a formal proposal.â
PBHâs executive committee plans to meet late October to review and decide its next steps.
âOur intent is to go the course between now and the end of October,â Pivonka said. âWe want to get through PMA (Fresh Summit) and talk to more people, just try to get more feedback through the event, and use that input in the PBH executive committee meetings.â
In the meantime, any company that wishes to be a part of further survey efforts can contact Pivonka at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the proposed board is available at www.fvcampaign.org.
The next session covering the topic is scheduled for Oct. 3 in Anaheim, Calif., in conjunction with PMAâs Fresh Summit. Panelists include Rick Antle, chief executive officer of Tanimura & Antle, Salinas; Bob Keeney, acting Agricultural Marketing Service associate administrator for USDA; Maureen Torrey Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y.; Bruce Taylor, president of Taylor Farms Inc., Salinas; Harry Kaiser, professor of marketing at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and Klutes.